Zimbabwe Must Cut Army Size

Now Daily Editorial

www.zimnowmedia.wordpress.com

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s recent pledge to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce the size of the government as a cost-cutting measure is as hollow as it sounds. Zanu PF has been making that promise since 1989 when former finance minister Bernard Chidzero negotiated the largely failed economic structural adjustment programme (ESAP) with the IMF. While Chidzero had more room to manoeuvre and the government made some token retrenchments in order to access IMF loans, it is hard to see how Chinamasa will do as he said.

The greatest failure of Chidzero’s cutbacks was his inability to deal with the core issue at the time, which was to lay off war veterans reaching retirement age and retain more youthful civil servants with the relevant education and skills but no military background. Many of the war veterans, such as registrar-general Tobaiwa Mudede and police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri are still occupying top government positions, adding no value to the civil service and just waiting for pay day, clamouring for bonuses and facilitating corruption.

Zimbabwe has an official army size of 29 000 active members and 21 800 reservists. However, the state has financial obligations to more than 350 000 current and former combatants and their families, including members of the paramilitary police support unit, graduates of youth service training centres who have been drafted clandestinely into government departments and parastatals. Many of these youth and party militias account for the 22 000 so-called ghost workers who have been identified in the civil service but cannot be weeded out because president Robert Mugabe’s regime needs these storm troopers for rigging elections and for dealing with dissenters in his Zanu PF party.

The police force officially stands at 35 000, but information at hand shows that 85 000 people are drawing police salaries.

It is these ‘ghosts’ who need to be removed from the government payroll. Unfortunately, our experience under this regime is that productive civil servants in essential services will be targeted for layoffs because they are not connected to senior members of the dictatorship. We will see nurses, doctors, teachers and other professionals being forced out while the idle government clerks and soldiers who spend their time doing virtually nothing will be kept on the payroll.

Zimbabwe is not under military threat from anyone except the armed Zanu PF factions fighting each other for control of political office and the trappings that come with it. The claims by defence minister Sidney Sekeramayi in parliament that Zimbabwe is threatened by the United States and European Union is totally false and should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves. It is actually shocking that our worthless opposition MDC-T MPs failed to challenge Sekeramayi on such a serious allegation and demand evidence. The fact that the US and EU have banned Mugabe and his entourage from doing business on their shores is simply to protect their citizens from these hopelessly corrupt and murderous goons. If America and Europe wanted to bomb Zimbabwe, they would have done that already. They haven’t done it because they never intended to. Instead, they are now busy trying to feed victims of Mugabe’s neglect and misrule, while sheltering millions of refugees fleeing Zanu PF political repression in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe and company choose to remain stuck in Cold War politics where they received numerous freebies for parroting Marxism and putting on a pseudo-communist/socialist façade. The present generation should not buy that rubbish. Cold War mongering never helped anyone except the thieves in government offices who certainly profited from pretending to be socialists, continuously asking the people to ‘tighten their belts’ while they grew fat on the labours of the poor and the sacrifices of big business.

Sekeramayi got what he wanted by lying, which was to get approval for the notorious Mugabe spy school, to be called the National Defence University. But for a nation facing no military threat and failing to feed its citizens, who needs a military university? Our hopeless MPs should have pointed out to the minister that what we needed first was an agricultural university to teach the idle soldiers animal husbandry and prepare them for productive civilian life instead of keeping them locked up in barracks where they get fed for doing nothing but polishing their shoes.

China, from which Zimbabwe gets its lessons has taken this route, training Red Army soldiers in business and other economic skills and sending them to build their country’s economy instead of shooting at imaginary enemies.

Zimbabwe needs and can afford no more than 10 000 soldiers for local emergencies. The rest of the force can be retired and be encouraged to utilize the farms which they invaded. Younger members can be enrolled into various civilian skills programmes and be encouraged to do something useful with their lives instead of sitting in barracks waiting for election time so that they can violate their Constitutional mandate and terrorize fellow citizens at the behest of crooked politicians.

The government will argue that there is no money to retrench these idle soldiers. But is it sustainable to keep recruiting for non-existent enemies? Certainly, this doesn’t make sense. The IMF has the power and obligation to tell Mugabe the truth, that he must send these soldiers home. If the IMF turns a blind eye on this reality, their recent 15-month ‘consultations’ would have been a waste of time and resources. It will be seen as an exercise in futility, giving downtrodden Zimbabweans false hope, which will only engender further hostility towards this multilateral agency, which is seen by many as bankrolling Mugabe’s mayhem in a country whose economy is once again on the brink of collapse.

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